Victory at Mortain
Stopping Hitler's Panzer Counteroffensive
Mark J. Reardon
A powerful German counterattack in Normandy in August 1944 might have been one of the Wehrmacht's great shining moments in the Second World War. The odds were certainly in their favor. Determined to drive the Allies back to the English Channel, elements of four combat-hardened panzer divisions faced off against a single American infantry division near the town of Mortain. Instead, the Americans held their ground, enabling the Allied armies to secure the invasion and ultimately liberate France.
In a vivid recreation of this pivotal battle—less celebrated than the encounter at the Falaise Pocket but just as decisive—Mark Reardon tells how the 30th Infantry Division held off the German panzer juggernaut, which was designed to drive a wedge between Allied forces. In recounting this showdown, he offers a new perspective on the German defeat in Normandy and a convincing counterpoint to the conventional view of most military analysts that Germany lost the war as a result of Allied materiel superiority or Hitler's strategic meddling.
“Reardon takes the fight down to the platoon level on both sides. . . . A useful addition to our understanding of this important moment in history.”
“A major contribution.”
—History: Reviews of New BooksSee all reviews...
“This is the first truly scholarly account of the battle. . . . Reardon has produced a well-written and researched volume which not only draws on American, British, and German primary sources, but also uses firsthand accounts by more than two hundred American soldiers. I highly recommend this book for those interested in the European Theater during World War II.”
“Very good reading. . . . Reardon clearly demonstrates the capabilities of well-integrated artillery strikes in support of defensive positions. It also demonstrates how small groups of determined soldiers can destroy the time lines of much larger attacking forces. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in World War II. It is a good book on a subject that is often overshadowed by the Normandy Invasion on one hand, and the race across France on the other.”
“A richly detailed and stirring tale of American GIs in battle against great odds.”
—Russell F. Weigley, author of Eisenhower’s Lieutenants
“The definitive account of the defeat by the U.S. Army of the best operational counterattack by the Wehrmacht during the D-Day campaign. At its best, the writing evokes Stephen Ambrose. Reardon is able to convey both the epic as well as everyday aspects of Mortain’s field of battle.”
—Dennis E. Showalter, author of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires
“A tightly organized and detailed account of an important battle in Normandy.”
—Geoffrey P. Megargee, author of Inside Hitler’s High CommandSee fewer reviews...
Through vigorous prose laced with compelling anecdotes, Reardon reconstructs the battle from both sides of the firing line to explain why it evolved and ended as it did. He reveals how professional rivalries and lack of accurate battlefield information hampered the efforts of German generals to execute a successful counteroffensive. He also tells how the U.S. Army profited from the bitter lessons of hedgerow fighting to gain superiority in ground maneuver, fire support, and the use of airpower, logistics, communications, and reconnaissance in the face of more experienced and better armed opponents.
Reardon's riveting tale reveals that Americans GIs could fight as well as their more vaunted opponent, which gave the U.S. Army the confidence it needed to take the war into the enemy's homeland. Equally important, their victory prevented the Germans from retaking strategic points that would have kept the war bottled up in Normandy.
Drawing not only on exhaustive research in Anglo-American and German archives but also on firsthand accounts by more than two hundred American soldiers, Reardon's detailed reconstruction fills an important gap in the history of World War II combat that has existed for more than half a century.